The end of the year comes around each year and many of us vow to suddenly be a radically different person on January 1st. We vow to exercise every day, forego the sweets on the break room table, walk 10,000 steps every day, floss, lose 20 pounds, fit into that pair of pants in the back of the closet, AND make all of our perfectly healthy food from scratch every day.
Realistically this isn’t going to happen – at least not all at once on January 1st.
Consider the following 10 things before you set your New Year’s resolutions if you want to successfully improve your healthy lifestyle.
- Change happens little by little. For most people change doesn’t happen in one fell swoop. Think about it, did you adopt your unhealthy habits all at once? Probably not. They creeped in one by one and became part of your life in such a way that you no longer consciously make those decisions. Set resolutions that focus on making changes a little at a time.
- Having a healthy lifestyle isn’t a short term goal. A healthy lifestyle is something you want to do for the rest of your life. It’s okay it is takes you time to get there. Quick fixes need not apply here. Easy come, easy go. Long lasting fixes will improve your healthy lifestyle for years to come.
- Build habits instead of making promises. Replace a unhealthy habit with a healthy habit one at a time. Work the new behavior until it is a habit that you don’t have to think about. When you change your habits, it’s a type of hack to help you improve your health. Make your habits work for you and the goals you have for a healthy lifestyle.
- Set yourself up for success. Goals should be clear and actionable. A resolution to fit into the pair of pants in the back of your closet doesn’t explain how you’ll achieve the goal. And if that pair of pants is 4 sizes too small right now, it’s probably not the right goal. Better goals focus on something you are doing as much or more than they do the outcome. How your pants fit might be your measure of progress, but your goal might be to eat a healthy breakfast each morning so you are full until lunch with snacking between meals.
- Reduce your cognitive load. Making change in our life takes a lot of energy and willpower. If you try to do too much at once your willpower will be depleted and you’ll fail to build new habits. When you focus on one thing at a time, you aren’t overloading your brain. This enables you to make the decision to meet your new goal day after day until it’s a habit and engrained in the rhythm of your life.
- Set goals that you can practice nearly every day. Goals targeting occasional behaviors don’t get practiced very often, so you aren’t able to build a habit out of practice. If you set a goal that you can practice every day you are more likely to achieve that goal, because you are presented with many opportunities to succeed rather than a few.
- Consider your life and reality. Promising to do 90 minute workouts 4 days a week or cooking everything from scratch might not work if you work 12 hour shifts or have a long commute to work. Set goals that are achievable based on your current reality. If your situation needs to change, set incremental goals that will help you change your situation.
- Leave room for improvement. Give yourself time to experiment and learn how you can best adapt a healthy habit. For example, you might not have the time or endurance to do 60 full minutes of exercise now, so your first goal might be building a habit of 20 minute exercise routines for a few weeks before increasing to 30 or 40 minutes.
- Approach improvements like experiments. Not everything you try to improve your healthy lifestyle will work. If you have changed multiple variables, you won’t be able to tell what is improving or worsening your healthy lifestyle. If you move one variable at a time, you are better able to determine a relationship between that variable and your healthy.
- Pair your goal with a trigger. For example, a goal to do something each morning isn’t effective as setting a goal to do that same thing as soon as you get out of bed. Morning is vague and you could keep telling yourself that you’ll do it later…. And you probably won’t do it. Pairing it with a trigger is also helpful because your brain will learn the relationship between the trigger and the desired habit.
So instead of setting a laundry list of health related goals, each month choose one healthy habit to adopt.
If this all is a little overwhelming right now, don’t worry. I’ve got you covered. In 2018 each month, I’ll recommend a habit to tackle that month and give you tips and tricks throughout the month to help you succeed in developing the habit. Subscribe the the Fit Food Habit newsletter to make sure you are getting all of the tips and tricks.
If you continually build on your healthy habits, then by the end of 2018 you’ll have created 12 new healthy habits. You probably won’t be that perfect version of yourself that we often envision when we set New Year’s resolutions, but that’s okay. You will have met a resolution to continuously improve your health by building 12 new healthy habits, which is better than you’ve done in years past, right?
And by building them one at a time, you are setting yourself up for success. And the success of building each new habit will motivate you to succeed with the next habit.
Are you in?
I’ll share January’s habit on December 26th, so you have time to prepare.